Friday, December 30, 2011

Feliz 2012

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Beautiful beach glass welcoming the new year. A happy, healthy and prosperous time for all, may your dreams come true. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Harvesting winter vegetables - the bounty

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We have just celebrated the winter solstice and the days are starting to get slightly longer, clear night skies and cool temperatures result in the first ground frost. Frosts are infrequent and mild here as we are so close to the sea but there are some vegetables that benefit from the colder weather, especially root vegetables.

The turnips are growing very well after we decided to plant them with some extra space and this year we have noticed that their sweetness has increased, probably with the more favourable growing conditions and the cooler weather. In contrast, the sweetness of the beetroots always decreases as the season progresses. We are hoping to start sowing beetroot again in early February, however there are still quite a few to pick and many ways of cooking or processing them so that the lack of sweetness is not really a problem.

Other vegetables that are doing well at this time of the year are the cabbages that we enjoy in a variety of cooked dishes and salads. The earlier cauliflowers have been cropping for a while as well as the earliest of the early sprouting purple broccoli. Leeks, celery, celeriac and a Winter lettuce of the endive family have been cropping for a few weeks now. Spurts of growth mean we have to monitor what is ready to eat and use it accordingly - experimenting with new dishes and ways of cooking.

There are little gem lettuces ready to be planted in the ground that will be ready for harvesting in late Winter, the first sowing of peas will need pea sticks over the next few days whilst the second sowing of garden peas is ready to be planted in the ground after been sprouted then sown in half a drainage pipe. The pipe sits against a south facing wall that provides a good heat source.

The onions and butternut squash that we have in storage are keeping very well and benefit from the extra heat from the wood burning stove in the studio. You need the heat on if working in the studio at the moment. Inevitably, Wentworth and Gawber sense the warmth indoors and join us whenever we are working in there.

We have already obtained all the seeds we need for the coming season other than for the extra early sprouting broccoli. If anyone has extra early broccoli seeds we'd sure welcome some as they are impossible to get around here.

We are waiting for some wood to be delivered that we will use to create three large raised beds that we will partially fill with sandy soil and be mixed with our heavy clay soil. I dream of the day our soil structure is good enough to grow carrots and parsnips.

All in all we are growing a lot of vegetables most of the year now and it is certainly a bonus knowing that we have such a fresh and untainted source of food at  bottom of the garden.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

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Our local cliffs at Guadamia taken 23.12.11 - note the couple of fishermen who come to fish from up high
Asturias, like the rest of Spain is suffering because of the high levels of unemployment and financial uncertainty. Christmas is very low key this year with minimal public decorations, subdued Christmas markets and few community based events. The shops are struggling and hotels and restaurants report low uptake however the people remain optimistic and resolute that change is inevitable and as such will adapt.

Despite the problems, the community spirit is alive and strong. The villagers don't really make any fuss about Christmas and the majority of them see it as another holiday with the 5th-6th of January the main event, the Epiphany. Children look forward to their presents from the wise men and many hope that the ever emerging notion of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve will also be adopted by their parents....two lots of presents...Yay!

We would like to take this opportunity to wish all who take the trouble to read our ramblings about life at La Pasera, a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year 2012. We hope you stay with us at Tales from Toriello and we hope to share many more events and moments in the year to come.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Convenience food - 50 years a vegetarian

Anyone who is vegetarian or who cooks for a vegetarian knows all too well that good quality vegetarian dishes take a lot of preparation. Being vegetable based (in the main), more often than not you need to plan ahead and ensure you have plenty of basics in stock ready for use such as nuts, seeds, pre-soaked and boiled beans, chick peas or lentils. In addition, vegetables need processing and cleaning thoroughly especially when they are home-grown, fresh from the ground and not nicely pre-cleaned and packed.

In the UK during my youth, teens and 20s, the concept of fast food had not yet reached the masses and unless you cooked for yourself, you made do with whatever was available. The concept of vegetarian was vague to most food outlets. I remember when I was first training to be a nurse, along with a fellow vegetarian student Terry, we lived in the nurses home at a hospital close to where we worked. The hospital canteen was our main source of nutrition for at least two years before we decanted into a shared house. The canteen waitresses (Bambi and Cath) were always helpful and on a daily basis both parties followed the obligatory routine of "do you have anything without meat or fish?" followed by "No, but I can make you a cheese sandwich with chips". You cannot imagine the jubilation on the rare day when they could announce "We've got cauliflower cheese today". Cheese sandwich and chips, the life saver.

Vegetarian is still a weird concept for most Asturians
Here at La Pasera we both follow a vegetarian diet and therefore having something in the freezer we can pop under a grill or quickly saute, really helps. We often batch cook and this then becomes our convenience foods. One favourite for batch cooking is spicy Indian bean burgers. We make about 40 at a time and freeze them. They cook really well from frozen and make a great addition to a plate of salad or accompanying a few roast veg.

Here is the recipe:

Spicy Indian Bean Burgers 

250 g of soft cooked beans (we use aduki and black eyed beans)
Large onion chopped finely
125 g of grated carrot or swede
90 g fresh breadcrumbs
1 tsp marmite or similar
Flour, Salt, Pepper, Oil
Indian spices (to taste) (we use general curry powder or a mix of garam masala and chilli)

Frozen uncooked on trays then bagged
Sauté the onion and add the Marmite. Lightly mash beans and breadcrumbs (we use a potato masher), add grated vegetables and the cooked onions. Add spices and season to taste. Divide into 90-100g balls and shape into burgers with a light flour coating. Freeze separately on trays then bag up into usable quantities. Goes well with a nice fruit chutney. We would quadruple this recipe to make about 40 burgers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The history of Ribadesella 1/6

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Click on the photograph for a larger picture.

This series of blog posts will feature the beautifully crafted tile murals that decorate the promenade at the mouth of the harbour in Ribadesella. The murals are about 3 meters long by 1 meter high and are attached at eye level along the promenade wall. They were created from original artwork by the famous Spanish humorist and caricaturist Antonio Mingote.    

Six panels in total feature aspects of life and culture in and around Ribadesella from pre-history to present day.

This first panel La Prehistoria celebrates (with tongue firmly in cheek) the prehistory past times and culture of Ribadesella's first inhabitants. Hunting, the first tourists, a race in canoes down the river Sella, cave dwellings, good food, the artist and his critic. Amusingly, these are also the main past times in modern day Ribadesella. Tourists come here for traditional, good quality food based on meat and fish. The Tito Bustillo cave network on the edge of town is a world famous visitor attraction with its 30,000 year history, 14,000 year old cave art and dwellings. The canoes are of great significance to the economy of the town with canoeing the river Sella being one of the main tourist attractions for all generations. In addition, we have the annual International Descent of the River Sella which has been going for over 75 years and brings in thousands of visitors for the first weekend in August. Bookmark or subscribe to see the next five panels in the series.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Whales and Dolphins in the Bay of Biscay

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What a privileged to watch, albeit from a distance, the whales and dolphins in the Bay of Biscay. On a recent crossing aboard the ferry to the UK, calm waters and glorious light meant that spotting these illusive creatures was a little easier.

Scanning the surface of the water, it is easy to misinterpret flotsam and jetsam as the dorsal fin of a whale or the the shadows of a dolphin pod as they glide just under the surface of the waves. The white water can often make it difficult to spot the expelled water from a whale's blow hole. Thankfully the tranquil waters were kind and I managed to get a few distant photographs.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

A perfect way to welcome December


Today was (reportedly) the last of the unusually hot and sunny weather we have been enjoying in Asturias over the last few days. There is a weather report that warns us about low pressure coming our way bringing rain, a drop in temperatures and strong winds so I decided to enjoy the warm sunshine while cycling along the coastal road. After having lunch on a deserted sandy cove I made my way back home and just about 10km from home I stopped to enjoy the stunning views Saint Antolin's beach has as you can appreciate from the images. Saint Antolin's beach is one of my favourite beaches not far from home.

Once I was back at La Pasera I could not resist the beautiful sunset so I got myself a well deserved drink and sat to enjoy the sunset colours while Wentworh and Gawber played in the garden. I hope you all had a good start of the month.

Luis x